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Democratic Empire: The United States Since 1945

ISBN: 978-1-119-02735-5
392 pages
May 2016, Wiley-Blackwell
Democratic Empire: The United States Since 1945 (1119027357) cover image

Description

A brief survey of U.S. history since the end of World War II, focusing on popular beliefs, fears, and hopes that have shaped American culture and history over the last eight decades.
  • Explores the ways in which the American people’s perceptions of power were as  significant as the realities of that power, and how popular beliefs shaped the events of post-WWII America
  • Gives particular attention to mass media, the fine arts, and intellectual currents, exploring their role in American society
  • Features “Culture Watch” chapter sidebars, which help students delve into particular classic works of American culture
  • Intermixes political and social history along with cultural history to provide a comprehensive narrative
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Prelude: The Imperial Logic of the American Dream xiii

Part I The Postwar Decades 1

1 Victory and Anxiety: World War and Cold War, 1945–1962 3

Colony to Colonizer: American Rise to Globalism 4

Wages of War: Triumph over Germany and Japan 5

First Frost: Dawn of the Cold War 9

Seeing Red: The Cold War at Home 12

Playing with Dominoes: Cold War Hot Spots 17

Cold War Showdown: Cuba 19

culture watch: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955/1956) 23

2 Conformity and Rebellion: American Culture and Politics, 1945–1963 27

Best Worst Time: Early Postwar Years 28

Boom! The Postwar Economy Explodes 29

Rising Suburbs: Life on the Crabgrass Frontier 32

Restless in the Promised Land: Suburbia’s Critics 35

Free Movement: Early Civil Rights Struggles 40

Big Bangs: 1950s Youth Culture 45

culture watch: A Raisin in the Sun (1959) 49

Part II The Long 1960s 53

3 Confidence and Agitation: The American Empire at High Tide, 1960–1965 55

Dishing: The Kitchen Debate as Domestic Squabble 56

American Prince: JFK 58

Grand Expectations: The Birth of “the Sixties” 60

Overcoming: The Civil Rights Movement Crests 61

Voices: Popular Culture of the Early 1960s 64

Countercurrents: Civil Rights Skeptics 65

Lone Star Rising: The LBJ Moment 69

Flanking Maneuver: Johnson in Vietnam 73

Fissures: Democratic Fault Lines 75

culture watch: “The Times They Are A ]Changin’” (1964) 80

4 Fulfillment and Frustration: An Empire in Conflict, 1965–1974 86

Over the Moon: Winning the Space Race 87

Imperial Quagmire: The Vietnam Wars 89

Down from the Mountaintop: The Civil Rights Movement 93

Turning Point: 1968 96

Right Rising: The Return of Richard Nixon 99

Women’s Work: The Feminist Movement 102

Rainbows: Rights Revolutions 105

Grim Peace: Endgame in Vietnam 108

Crooked Justice: The Triumph and Fall of Nixon 109

culture watch: Easy Rider (1969) 113

5 Experimentation and Exhaustion: Political Culture of the Sixties, 1965–1975 119

The Great Divide: Establishment and Counterculture 120

(de)Construction Sites: The Rise of Postmodernism 125

System Failure: The Reorganization of Hollywood 126

Medium Dominant: Television 128

Fit Print: Publishing 130

Kingdom of Rebels: The Reign of Rock 132

culture watch: “Chuckles the Clown Bites the Dust,” The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1975) 140

Interlude 144

6 Reassessment and Nostalgia: The American Empire in the Age of Limits, 1973–1980 144

1973: Hinge of American History 145

Apocalypse Now: The New Gloom 150

Depressingly Decent: Ford and Carter 153

Solitary Refinement: The Me Decade 159

Body Politics: Gender and Its Discontents 163

Rebellion and Revival: Pop Culture of the Late Seventies 166

Right Signal: The Conservative Turn 168

culture watch: Taxi Driver (1976) 175

Part III Indian Summer 181

7 Revival and Denial: The American Empire on Borrowed Time, 1981–1991 183

Right Man: The Age of Reagan 184

Making the Cut: Reaganomics 187

Breaking Ice: Reagan and the Cold War 191

Headwinds: Second ]Term Blues 193

For God’s Sake: Social Conservatism 196

Left Ahead: The Legacy of the Sixties in the Eighties 197

Swan Song: Reagan and the Soviets 201

41: The (First) Bush Years 203

Freely Intervening: United States as Sole Superpower 207

culture watch: The House on Mango Street (1984) 210

8 Innovation and Nostalgia: The Culture of the Eighties, 1981–1989 215

Small Transformations: The Rise of the Personal Computer 216

Consuming Pleasures: Old Fashions, New Gadgets 220

Seeing Music: Music Television, or MTV 225

Yo! African American Culture and the Birth of Hip -Hop 227

Bourne in the USA: Dissident Voices 231

culture watch: “The Message” (1982) 233

9 Prosperity and Distraction: The Post-Cold War Era, 1991–2001 238

Opposing Justice: The Hill–Thomas Imbroglio 239

Not Black and White: The Changing Colors of Race 242

Thug Life: Gangsta Rap 244

Running Saga: The O. J. Simpson Case 246

Family Matters: Demography and the Assault on Patriarchy 247

Culture War: The Fall of George Bush 250

Comeback Kid: The Rises and Falls of Bill Clinton 252

La Vida Loca: The Roaring Nineties 258

Tech Sec: Toward the Internet 260

Insulated Intervention: US Foreign Policy 264

Recount: The 2000 Election 267

culture watch: Exile in Guyville (1993) 271

Part IV Present Tense 277

10 Comfort and Dread: The American Empire in Decline, 2001–present 279

Towering Collapse: 9/11 280

Unknown Unknowns: The Iraq War 285

Spending Resources: The Debt Society 290

Bushed: Second-Term Blues 291

Downloading: Twenty-first Century Pop Culture 294

Posting: Web 2.0 298

Freely Unequal: The Tottering US Economy 299

Audacious Hopes: The Rise of Barack Obama 303

Future History: The Present as Past 310

culture watch: “Made in America,” The Sopranos (2007) 311

Postlude: The Ends of the American Century 316

Index 318

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Author Information

Jim Cullen is chair of the History Department of the Fieldston School in New York. He is the author of numerous books, among them The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation (2003) and Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write and Think about History, Third Edition (Wiley Blackwell, 2016). He lives in Hastings on Hudson, New York, with his wife and four children. 

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